Repro health advocates tell court: No abortion at the forum

Pasay court notes that anti-reproductive health petitioners, who seek to stop the conference, filed their petition when the event had already opened

PRO-LIFE. Pro-Life Philippines protests against the ongoing 7th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights on Tuesday, January 21. File photo by Jose Del/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The 7th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights (APCRSHR) is still a go – at least until a regional trial court decides otherwise.

On Wednesday, January 22, Branch 110 of the Pasay Regional Trial Court said it would soon issue a resolution on the petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the conference. (READ: Court asked to stop forum on sexual health)

The conference, being held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), will be until Friday. It gathers local and international experts on reproductive health and rights.

In its petition, Pro-Life Philippines Foundation said the conference organizers are committing criminal acts under the Revised Penal Code because they are “organizing and arranging activities to openly expound and encourage…the provision of abortion services,” among other things.

James Imbong, the same lawyer who questioned before the Supreme Court the constitutionality of the reproductive health law, argued on behalf of Pro-Life during Wednesday afternoon’s hearing in Pasay City. 

But conference organizers quoted lawyer Harry Roque as saying no abortion is going to be performed in the conference, thus no criminal act is committed under the law. 

Roque, along with lawyers Beth Pangalanan and Joven Dellosa, represented the Philippine NGO Council on Population, Health, and Welfare Incorporated (PNGOC), the host of the conference. 

Lawyers of the PICC  the conference venue – and those from the Office of the Solicitor General were also present during the hearing. OSG represents the Department of Health and the Population Commission, both partners in the conference.

Influencing the youth?

According to organizers, Judge Petronillo Sulla Jr pointed out that the conference is already ongoing during the filing of the TRO. 

Imbong also told the court majority of the attendees are young people, who may be influenced by the conference.

But the organizers were quick to correct this, saying the youth composes only about 1/3 of the delegates, none of them are minors, and they all came on their own volition. 

A youth conference opened on Tuesday the 4-day international conference attended by about two thousand delegates from different countries.

Pangalanan, meanwhile, spoke about freedom of speech and the value of sharing information, which the conference seeks to accomplish among delegates from the Asia Pacific.

Imbong and his wife were the petitioners who questioned the constitutionality of the Reproductive Health (RH) law less than two weeks after it was signed by President Benigno Aquino III. In March 2013, the Supreme Court stopped the implementation of the law, issuing a status quo ante order against the law. 

Health Secretary Ona told delegates Wednesday that he is confident the Supreme Court will uphold the law soon. (READ: ‘Int’l RH conference a reminder to SC justices’)

I am confident, nonetheless, that our Supreme Court will soon uphold this law and sweep away all barriers to its implementation,” he said. 

Nafis Sadik and Kate Gilmore, former and present leaders of the United Nations Population Fund, expressed the same sentiment. – Rappler.com

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